Hawaii

STATUS:

Marriage

WINNING MARRIAGE:

On November 13, 2013, Hawaii became the sixteenth jurisdiction in the United States (15 states, plus the District of Columbia) to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed the freedom to marry into law. The marriage bill had been approved by the the Hawaii Senate and House earlier in November. 

A broad-based coalition of marriage supporters in the state formed Hawaii United for Marriage in order to show legislators in the state that it's time for marriage in Hawaii. 

Same-sex couples will begin marrying in Hawaii on December 2. 

HISTORY:

In May 1993, a state supreme court responded seriously to an ad hoc marriage lawsuit for the first time ever. Without the backing of any organized local or national LGBT group, three same-sex couples sued Hawaii for marriage licenses. In Baehr v. Lewin (later Baehr v. Miike), the Hawaii Supreme Court suggested the potential validity of the lawsuit, arguing that the denial of marriage to same-sex couples might be sex discrimination. The Hawaii Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court for a new hearing. Soon thereafter, the Hawaii legislature passed the Reciprocal Beneficiaries statute, which made it easier for unmarried friends, partners, or family members to care for each other.

The 1993 Hawaii Supreme Court decision was preliminary and had not yet granted marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state.

In response to Baehr, anti-gay forces introduced the so-called Defense of Marriage Act into state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. The proposal, which called for marriage to be restricted to only different-sex couples, was approved at the federal level, prohibiting federal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. 

In 1998, anti-gay forces succeeded in amending the Hawaii Constitution so as to prevent the courts from ending the exclusion of same-sex couples; under the Amendment, only the legislature can now cure that discrimination, notwithstanding the Equal Protection Clause.

On February 23, 2011, Gov. Abercrombie signed a civil union bill that provides some protections to same-sex couples and their families, but these protections are no substitute for the full measure of respect, clarity, security, and responsibilities of the freedom to marry. . The first civil unions occurred on January 1, 2012.

Marriage advocates in the state quickly began working toward the freedom to marry bill in Hawaii. After an effort in early 2013 encountered a procedural hurdle, marriage supporters urged the Legislature to consider a marriage bill, and Gov. Abercrombie convened a Special Session in late October 2013. Over the next three weeks, legislators in Hawaii heard testimony about why marriage matters and debated the bill, and on November 13, 2013, the marriage bill was finally signed into law. 

Read a detailed article examining the 20-year journey toward the freedom to marry in Hawaii HERE

POLLING DATA: 

55% of Hawaii residents say they think marriage between same-sex couples should be legal, with just 37% opposed. (Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, January 2013)

GROUPS ACTIVELY WORKING ON MARRIAGE:

  • Hawaii United for Marriage is a broad coalition of people, organizations, and groups working to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Hawaii. Freedom to Marry is proud to be a leading member of the coalition. 
  • Equality Hawaii is the central statewide organization dedicated to securing equal marriage rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and their families in Hawaii.
  • ACLU of Hawaii works to protect the rights and liberties of all Hawaii residents through lobbying, litigation and education.
  • Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. 

NUMBER OF SAME-SEX COUPLES:

According to The Williams Institute's analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, 3,239 same-sex couples are living in Hawaii, representing 7.1 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.

Blog Posts Related to Hawaii

LISTEN: 9th Circuit hears oral arguments on marriage in Nevada & Idaho

Today, September 8, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will hear oral arguments in landmark marriage cases out of three different states - Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii. Listen to audio from the oral argument later today.

Nikki and Sue’s beautiful HI wedding

When Nikki and Sue declared their love for each other in their beautiful ceremony, neither Hawaii nor their home state of New Jersey extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples - now, both states do.

IN THE NEWS: Reflecting on 2013, and looking ahead to 2014

In the past few weeks, discussion about the freedom to marry has thrived in some of the country's most widely read publications - and Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson has been on hand to answer questions, offer insight, and provide perspective on this historic year.

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Resources Related to Hawaii

Media Primer: 2011 Flashpoints for LGBT Equality

A media primer on the LGBT issues landscape for the coming year released by the Human Rights Campaign.

Potential Economic Impact of Civil Unions in Hawaii

The report shows that a civil union law in Hawaii would boost the economy through both increased spending and jobs, while also increasing the state budget, along with other positive economic impacts.

Hawaii Census Snapshot

Demographic and economic information about same-sex couples and same-sex couples raising children in Hawaii.

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